A solid performance despite the freezing gales
Conditions were atrocious for the final game before the Christmas break as a strong Easterly wind blew in freezing rain that was impossible to escape. However, that did not deter a vociferous crowd of supporters of more 250 giving loud support to their team. Shelford put in a strong and spirited performance against a Hertford side built around a powerful and well drilled pack.
The scoreboard did not reflect the tremendous effort and tenacity of the Shelford side who more than matched Hertford in every aspect, apart from the set piece, showing the strides made by the players and coaching team.
What killed off Shelford hopes were five identical Hertford tries using their forwards’ dominance. Each stemmed from a penalty conceded, a kick into the corner followed by a driven over try.
Shelford made a strong start with a series of attacks, but after just six minutes infringed and were not ready for the quick tap penalty for Hertford’s first try, making is 0-5 to the visitors. For the next fifteen minutes Shelford launched a series of moves through the backs and Hertford were under severe pressure. They were unable to cross the goal line but Mike Gillick put points on the board through a superb drop goal from 25 metres, bring Shelford back to 3-5.
Unfortunately Hertford struck back immediately with the first of their driven over tries. Shelford infringed in their own half, Hertford kicked the penalty to the corner and from the lineout Shelford were driven over by sheer power, extending the visitors lead to 3-12. Despite dogged defence and some excellent tackling by Shelford, this was repeated twice before half time with identical moves. At half-time it was Shelford 3- Hertford 22.
Shelford started the second half strongly and immediately pressurised the Hertford line. Finally a multi-phase attack was successful with Fred Betteridge touching down to be converted by Mike Gillick. Shelford now were beginning to dominate and good forward play resulted in a try for Sam Till, taking Shelford to within 7-points at 15-22.
However, Hertford responded twice in 10 minutes with their trademark penalty to the corner and driven over tries that Shelford, despite multiple tackles, simply did not have the physicality to prevent.
Showing their spirit, Shelford were not done and kept piling on the pressure and in the final 10 minutes after some superb interplay the ball was given out to Koroibanuve Vilive Camainakelo (better know as Vili) to touch down in the corner which was duly converted, making it 22-32.
However, Hertord continued to utilise their physical power and added a further try through their forwards. 22-39.
All the Shelford team and coaches should be commended for their resilience, grit and skill and it should be recognised that for half of this team it is their first season playing 1st XV rugby. They can only get better ... and will.